Having recently finished The Haunting of Hill House and launched my search for comparably creepy content to fill the void, I am pleased to learn that Netflix plans to bring one of our spooky local tales to life.
Writer Reeves Wiedeman revisited the story of The Watcher house, a suburban New Jersey home seemingly haunted by a living ghost, in a November feature for NY Magazine. According to Deadline, Netflix has just bested five studios in a bidding war for the movie rights to the article and to the owners’ waking nightmare. The streaming service reportedly paid seven figures for the privilege, and I for one am thrilled that I only have to pay $9.99/month to watch it.
If you haven’t read the full story, you should: NY Mag’s version marks the first time the family who bought this curséd pile of planks (for about $1.3 million in 2014) have spoken in-depth to the press. The tale itself is not new, but I am always happy to rehash it: Three days after closing on their colonial dream home, located in the town of Westfield, Derek and Maria Broaddus began receiving eerie, anonymous dispatches. The phantom author, who self-identified as The Watcher, claimed their family had kept a close eye on the house since the 1920s, and announced their intention to uphold the tradition.
“It is now my time,” read the first letter. “Do you know the history of the house? Do you know what lies within the walls of 657 Boulevard [The Watcher House]? Why are you here? I will find out.”
More followed, with personal details about the Broaddus family embedded in every missive. “657 Boulevard is anxious for you to move in. It has been years and years since the young blood ruled the hallways of the house,” one stated, alarming the Broadduses, who’d brought their two “young bloods” (aka, children) to tour the house on several occasions. “Have you found all of the secrets it holds yet? Will the young blood play in the basement? Or are they too afraid to go down there alone. I would [be] very afraid if I were them. It is far away from the rest of the house. If you were upstairs you would never hear them scream.”
Understandably, the family delayed move-in day and undertook an investigation to unmask The Watcher. They hired private investigators, they reported the harassment to police, and they began to regard their neighbors with acute suspicion. The town, in turn, responded with hostility, blocking the Broadduses’ municipal moves to sever ties with the house and effectively obligating the family to keep pouring money into maintenance and mortgage fees as they rented to willing tenants. Leads went cold, Westfield moved on, but by all accounts, The Watcher went right on watching, leaving Netflix with ample material to mine.
Deadline seems to be envisioning the project—which I hope will be called “Turn Around, Idiots,” in homage to one of The Watcher’s more brusquely taunting lines, but which will probably evoke the article’s title and content in more direct terms—as a film, and that would be fine. Personally, I see high potential for a series that (in classic Netflix fashion) winds up being about two or three episodes longer than it needs to.
Regardless of the format, I have pressing questions: Who will they cast as Michael Langford, the bearded, Boo Radley-type neighbor whose reclusive habits and unnerving proximity to 657 Boulevard made him suspect number one? And who will play the FBI agent who inspired Clarice Starling’s character in The Silence of the Lambs, and who helped the Broadduses with their digging? Jodie Foster seems like a natural choice, is she free? Will The Watcher watch this program? Time will tell, and unfortunately, Deadline has not suggested a production date. While you wait for the big drop, here’s a comprehensive history of The Watcher house, some input from another previous owner, and a firsthand account of Gothamist’s own investigation into the matter.